With cases of COVID-19 either disappeared or rapidly diminishing from places like Wuhan, Italy, New York, and Sweden, many voices are speculating that herd immunity may have been reached in those areas and that it may be at hand in the remaining parts of the world that are still struggling with the pandemic. Lockdowns should end—or may not have been needed to begin with, they conclude. Adding plausibility to their speculation is the discovery of biological evidence suggesting that prior exposure to other coronaviruses may confer some degree of immunity against SARS-CoV2, an immunity not apparent on the basis of antibody seroprevalence studies.
Opposing those viewpoints are those who dismiss the recent immunological claims and insist that rates of infections are far below those expected to confer immunity on a community. They believe that the main reason for the declining numbers are the behavioral changes that have occurred either under force of government edict or, in the case of Sweden, more voluntarily. What’s more, they remind us that the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919 occurred in 3 distinct waves. In the summer of 1918 influenza seemed overcome until a second wave hit in the fall. Herd immunity could not possibly have accounted for the end of the first wave.
The alarmists may have a point. However, recent history offers a more instructive example.
Until early 2015, epidemiologists considered Mongolia to be exemplary in how it kept measles under control. In the mid-1990s, the country instituted a robust vaccination program with low incidences of outbreaks, even by the standards of developed countries. In the early 2000s, it adopted a 2-step MMR immunization schedule and, after 2005, its vaccination rates were upwards of 95%. From 2011 through 2014, not a single case of the virus was recorded, leading the WHO to declare measles “eradicated” from Mongolia in November 2014.
As COVID-19 cases soar across the country, the federal government has lost control of the situation. Amid the Trump Administration’s happy talk and outright dismissal of the crisis, the U.S. is experiencing a forest fire of contagion and hospitalizations, and an upsurge in COVID-related deaths has already begun.
Other countries like Taiwan, South Korea, Germany, Australia and New Zealand have controlled their outbreaks, which is why their COVID-19 infections and deaths have been minimal or trending downward in recent months. To replicate those nations’ strategies of testing, contact tracing and quarantining, the U.S. Congress would have to appropriate about $43.5 billion, according to one estimate. But as we know, Senate Republicans won’t pass such a bill without Donald Trump’s prior approval—and that’s unlikely as long as his main focus is on reopening the economy.
We can hope that electoral victory by the Democrats in November will change this equation, but Joe Biden won’t take office until January if he wins. Meanwhile, the coronavirus is chewing up America. We can’t afford to wait six months to blunt the impact of this horrible disease. However, there is a solution that doesn’t depend on federal leadership: states can form compacts that would form the basis for collective action to get us out of the trap we’re in.
Interstate compacts are very common in the U.S. Various pacts cover everything from clean water and clean air to medical licensure, mental health and interstate transportation. For example, under the Middle-Atlantic Forest Fire Protection Compact, which includes Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, member states assist one another in fire prevention and suppression and firefighter training.
Episode 17 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, July 9th! Watch it below!
Joining me were some of our regulars: patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano), health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn (@healthythinker), WTF Health Host Jessica DaMassa (@jessdamassa), and guests: Tina Park, partner at Diagram (@diagramoffice) & Shannon Brownlee, Senior VP at the Lown Institute (@ShannonBrownlee). The conversation focused on asynchronous care, the gap between patients & technology, and the Supreme Court ruling on employers’ ability to limit women’s access to birth control coverage. It was a great and engaging conversation with some of the top health care experts in the field.
If you’d rather listen, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Zoya Khan
Episode 14 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, June 18th. Tune in below!
Joining Matthew Holt were four regulars: health futurist Ian Morrison (@seccurve), writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), MD turned leadership coach Maggi Cary (@MargaretCaryMD), Consumer advocate & CTO of Carium Health Lygeia Ricciardi (@Lygeia), and two guests: Emergency Room MD, IT consultant and so much more Medell Briggs (MedellBriggsMD), and patient advocate CEO of Patient Orator, Kistein Monkhouse (@KisteinM). It was a very thoughtful conversation about patient care, the role of social movements, what to do about structural racism in health care, and what new legislation might come from the federal level. You can watch below right now.
If you’d rather listen to the episode, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Zoya Khan
Episode 13 of “The THCB Gang” was on Thursday, June 11th. Watch it below or on our YouTube Channel.
Matthew Holt (@boltyboy)was back on the moderating chair! Joining him were patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano), patient safety expert Michael Millenson (MLMillenson), policy expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis), MD & hospital system exec Raj Aggarwal (@docaggarwal), data privacy expert Deven McGraw (@healthprivacy) and fierce journalist & data rights activist Casey Quinlan (@MightyCasey). This was a doozy, and the conversation ranged from what it’s like re-opening at a big academic medical center to data flow and public health in Taiwan to statues of Confederate losers in Richmond. Not to mention what will happen in the impeding second wave.
If you’d rather listen, the “audio only” version is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Zoya Khan
Episode 12 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Friday, June 5th from 1PM PT to 4PM ET. If you didn’t have a chance to tune in, you can watch it below or on our YouTube Channel.
Editor-in-Chief, Zoya Khan (@zoyak1594), ran the show! She spoke to economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn (@healthythinker), executive & mentor Andre Blackman (@mindofandre), writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), MD-turned entrepreneur Jean-Luc Neptune (@jeanlucneptune), and patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano). The conversation focused on health disparities seen in POC communities across the nation and ideas on how the system can make impactful changes across the industry, starting with executive leadership and new hires. It was an informative and action-oriented conversation packed with bursts of great facts and figures.
If you’d rather listen, the “audio only” version it is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels a day or so after the episode — Matthew Holt
Episode 11 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, May 27th and you can see it again below
Joining me were three regulars, patient safety expert Michael Millenson (MLMillenson), writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), health futurist Ian Morrison (@seccurve), and two new guests: digital health investment banker Steven Wardell (@StevenWardell) and MD turned physician leadership coach Maggi Cary (@MargaretCaryMD)! The conversation was heavy on telemedicine and value based care, and their impact on the stock-market, the economy and the health care system–all in a week when we went over 100,000 deaths from COVID-19.
If you’d rather listen, the “audio only” version is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Matthew Holt
Matthew Holt talks to David Smith who is working on the Medicaid Transformation Project at Avia, which is looking at how hospitals & health plans can improve health outcomes and in turn, lose less money on Medicaid programs. David talks about the tremendous amount of capital being poured into Medicaid, and how the problem is only getting worse. So the focus of the project is trying to reduce healthcare delivery organizations’ spend on these services. At Avia, they are trying to take the best of model science and the best of digital capabilities to help create more efficient care models for their clients as well as reduce costs.
Zoya Khan is the Editor-in-Chief of THCB and a Strategy Manager at SMACK.health
Caution: This post is not a prediction. It’s just a tutorial about the concept of herd immunity, with an eye to why it’s probably not an approach the US wants to take in solving the complex problems we’ve gotten ourselves into with COVID-19.
Click this graphic to go see a six second animation of these images, created in 2017 by Reddit user TheOtherEdmund. You many need to watch a few times. Get a feel for the differences in what happens in the different blocks, and come back to discuss:
This weekend I’ve labored to understand this concept, which first came to my ears regarding coronavirus in March, when British prime minister Boris Johnson proposed it as a possible approach for Britain to take: let the virus take its course, and they’d end up with “herd immunity,” and that would be the end of that.
In my unsophisticated knowledge “herd immunity” meant “you let the weak cows die, and the rest of the herd will be fine.” And in fact in April a Tennessee protestor held up a sign saying “Sacrifice the Weak – Reopen TN.” (It’s not clear whether the sign was mocking or real (Snopes), but it illustrates the point.)
Everyone has an opinion on whether and when we should open
the country. Never in the history of America have we had so many “correct”
theories and experts to pontificate on a new pandemic. But somehow, few seem to
recall history or attempt to learn from it.
Over a century ago, almost 100 million people out of a world population of 1.8 billion lost their lives to the so-called “Spanish Flu”. At 8.5 million casualties, the death toll from World War I pales in comparison. In the US alone, we lost over 675,000 people in one year to this pandemic. In fact, we lost more people to the 1918 flu than to World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined. It was estimated that 5-10% of young adults had died. Nothing has ever come close in devastating the world’s population.
In early 1918, Dr. Miner from Haskell County in Kansas encountered several patients with a severe form of the flu that faded away by March 1918. He was concerned enough to report his observations to the US public health services, who published his concerns but then ignored the issue; there were more pressing problems facing the world, namely World War I. But in Camp Funston, a military complex, soldiers were faced with such cold weather and inadequate clothing that 7,000 of them suffered from the flu and nearly 100 died. Still, these warning signs didn’t seem alarming enough to prevent 1.5 million soldiers from crossing the ocean and going to war in Europe.